What will the new research funding landscape look like?

10 March 2016


Reported by Tom Pryke, ESRC-funded CSaP Policy Intern (February - April 2016)

The Centre for Science and Policy launched its 2015 annual report at a panel discussion and reception in Cambridge on 10 February.

In his opening statement, CSaP's Executive Director – Dr Robert Doubleday – recognised the contribution of CSaP’s network to the continued success of Policy Fellowships, Policy Workshops and other activities.

He then went on to chair a panel discussion with Jenny Dibden (BIS), Vicky Jones (HEFCE), Peter Hedges (University of Cambridge) and Julian Huppert (University of Cambridge) on the new research funding landscape and how this might look following last year's Nurse Review, Spending Review, and Autumn Statement.

The recent Spending Review was heralded by Julian Huppert as a "brilliant success" in terms of funding for science research. Following recommendations in the Nurse Review, Jenny Dibden outlined the potential benefits of establishing a single agency – ‘Research UK’ – which included: reducing bureaucracy and freeing up scientists to do more science, increasing co-ordination of multidisciplinary research, and importantly, maximising spending efficiency.

BIS’s Green Paper outlined the Government’s plan for monitoring and assessing the quality of teaching in UK universities – the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The panel felt that there was “much in the Green Paper to support” but they also recognised that there were a number of key areas that remained potentially problematic e.g. issues of teaching and the degree of ministerial input and engagement.

There was a discussion on the most recent REF exercise, and thoughts turned towards the next review, where some panellists felt there was a need to simplify bureaucracy and increase cost-effectiveness. The panel ended with a discussion on the relationship between metrics of success and behaviour, and how any changes in metrics may impact future REF and TEF assessments.

Questions and comments from the floor touched on the influence of special interest groups, and how funding excellence might be maintained in the face of increasing pressures of standardisation. Other questions addressed whether establishing a new single agency to distribute research funding would in fact reduce bureaucracy and resolve issues of interdisciplinarity.

(Banner image by Kosala Bandara via Flickr)